ARMS OPEN WIDE

Monday, July 21, 2014



ARMS OPEN WIDE
A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence
By Sherri Gragg

OVERVIEW: With a storyteller's giftedness, Sherri Gragg transports you into life-changing moments with Jesus where you'll feel touched, healed, and spiritually blessed by the assurance that the Messiah, the Healer, the Friend is alive with you now. Experience firsthand the power and devotion of the Savior in your own life. You'll know Jesus like never before. Sherri writes in fictional narrative form while mixing biblical history with scripture, creating a setting that transforms readers back in time and places them right in Jesus’ presence. For thirty-five days readers walk with the Savior to witness miraculous healings and events, and give fresh insight into His power by thinking and feeling with people whose lives became instantly transformed by His love and grace. Readers journey with Jesus and His disciples in the most important time in history.

AUTHOR: Sherri Gragg is a nationally published writer who was a winner in the 2012 Writer’s Digest Competition (inspiration).  She discovered the beautiful Jewish roots of her Christian faith during the course of a trip to Israel, and now passionately uses her gifts of writing and teaching to share the gospel of Christ through the Middle Eastern cultural lens.  She and her husband, Michael, have five children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.

MY REVIEW: Arms Open Wide—A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence is an inviting title. I like to read it slowly and let the invitation sink into my mind. I get a mental picture of Jesus waiting with outstretched arms. I like the words of Robert Morgan: "Sherri's writings seem as if she parachuted into the middle of the Gospels, saw all the action for herself, and returned to tell us about it!

If you have ever wondered what it would have been like to witness the miraculous healing of a leper, to watch Jesus walk on water or to be in the mind of the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus, this book will help you with that. Sherri also concludes each chapter with a prayer that is helpful. She says they are simply cries of her own heart but she believes they are a little like your heart's cry too. I think they may be.

This book is small and easy to handle. Each devotion is just the right length. They can be read easily and quickly. But you will not close the book quickly. You will want to linger and meditate letting the story travel deep into you mind. This is a good book to begin OR end the day with.

(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

CURMUDGEON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AHEAD

Friday, July 11, 2014


CURMUDGEON'S GUIDE TO GETTING AHEAD
Do's And Don'ts Of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, And Living A Good Life
By Charles Murray

OVERVIEW: For those starting out in their careers—and those who wish to advance more quickly—this is a delightfully fussy guide to the hidden rules of the road in the workplace and in life. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of such national bestsellers Coming Apart and The Bell Curve (with Richard J. Herrnstein).

MY REVIEW: Charles Murray is one of my favorite writers. I love his easy style and his quick wit. He is extremely knowable about what he writes. Even though I didn't even know what a Libertarian was when I picked up his book, What It Means to Be a Libertarian, when I put it down I felt like I had received a college education on that subject. In this, his newest book The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead he writes about how to behave around the curmudgeon's you will meet if you wish to work at the senior levels of an organization. He gives many day-to-day tips for young people on what to expect at the senior level.

Charles has a lot to say about life in general. he urges us to leave home no matter what, get real jobs (not internships), put ourselves in scary situations, and watch the movie, Groundhog Day repeatedly.
"Witty, wise, and pulling no punches, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead is an indispensable sourcebook for living an adult life." He doesn't make the claim that this little book will fix all that needs fixing in life, but he thinks it might help. And it will!

(I received this book free from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

BRING THEM HOME AT ANY COST?

Saturday, June 07, 2014



Bring them home! Never leave a soldier behind!

Is it an absolute that we should never leave a soldier behind?

Today we are hearing that it is. If any criticism is made regarding the price paid to bring a soldier home, we immediately hear, "We never leave a soldier behind."

Oh, ok I guess that's right, we never leave a soldier behind. There's nothing else to say.

But there is more to say.

We have to ask ourselves if there is ever a time or reason when we just have to leave a soldier behind.

Is there? Or is it really true, WE NEVER, EVER LEAVE A SOLDIER BEHIND. NOT FOR ANY REASON!

The influential conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer says he would have made the deal to bring St. Bowe Bergdahl home. Yes, he would have freed the five Taliban militants in exchange for Bergdahl.

I have great respect for Krauthammer. But I would not have made this exchange. It is bad in many respects. I rarely disagree with him but I do this time. Krauthammer and I do not agree on all theological and religious topics why do we have to agree on this? We don't! As wise as he is, he doesn't know everything.

Soldiers take comfort in knowing that Americans never leave a soldier behind if there is any way humanly possible to bring them home without paying a price that even the soldiers themselves would refuse to pay.

The price for Bergdahl was absolutely too high to pay. And if that is the only deal that the enemy would make, then it should have been refused.

War is hell!






THE REAL WIN—Pursuing God's Plan for Authentic Success

Friday, June 06, 2014



THE REAL WIN
Pursuing God's Plan for Authentic Success
By Colt McCoy and Matt Carter
with Marcus Brotherton

OVERVIEW: In The Real Win Colt McCoy and Matt Carter wrestle deeply and personally with the challenge to succeed in a world that seems to get in the way. They raise a lot of questions about this and then deliver down-to-earth, biblical answers. Based on their personal experiences and a close study of Scripture, McCoy and Carter show men: Why so much depends on who you trust and who you serve. Why every man is called to lead and why every man can. How to man up to temptation—and conquer it. How to find the "win" even in your biggest failure. The book now includes a bonus-section on mentoring, plus a small-group reading guide.

AUTHORS: Colt McCoy is an NFL quarterback who, while at the University of Texas, led his team to the BCS national championship game and became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Colt is involved in ministries around the world. During the off-season, he and his wife, Rachel, live in Austin, Texas. Matt Carter is founding pastor of the eight-thousand-member Austin Stone Community Church. He is a champion for the For the City Network, which helps churches partner with social service agencies to meet local needs. Matt is the author of several books, and he speaks at conferences nationwide. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. Marcus Brotherton is the author or co-author of more than twenty-five books, including the New York Times bestseller We Who Are Alive and Remain. He lives with his family in Washington state.

MY REVIEW: Best-selling author, Max Lucado said, "Colt McCoy and Matt Carter lead men to win—not just in athletics or careers, but in life. This book is packed with inspiration and practical guidance. I heartily recommend it." And so do I.

The Real Win will challenge and convict you. What I like best about it is that it will help you grow in your faith. It touches all the areas in which men struggle. It points the way to success by pointing to Jesus. Colt and Matt are not afraid to share their own struggles and failures. But they want you to look past your failures, their failures and look to Jesus Christ for your picture of success.

This book will point you to the real win!

(I received this book from Blogging For Books for a fair and honest review.)

HOW TO START A RIOT—SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL JESUS REVOLUTION



HOW TO START A RIOT
Support Your Local Jesus Revolution
By Jonathan Storment

OVERVIEW: How To Start A Riot is a story about shipwrecks, snakebites, beatings, meetings, and other church events. This book takes us back into the first century so we can turn our world upside down as the Spirit through Peter and Paul did in their time. The way of Jesus has always been wilder than we think and more dangerous than we'd like. This is  a book about what it means to belong to the community of God—a book about how to Support Your Local Revolution. (Adapted from the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Jonathan Storment has been in full-time ministry for over a decade. He served as associate preaching minister at The Hills Church in the Dallas area until 2010, and has been preaching minister at the Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, since 2010. Jonathan is a regular contributor to Scot McKnight's blog "Jesus Creed" and preaches at churches, university chapels, and conferences all over the world. He and his wife, Leslie, have three children: Eden, Samuel, and Hannah.

MY REVIEW: I don't know Jonathan Storment and I have never heard him preach. However, I do know Mike Cope, the preaching minister at Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, who preceded Jonathan. Mike is an outstanding preacher and writer and so I have been anxious to hear from the man who followed him in that pulpit. I still have not heard Jonathan preach but I have read this book and it is excellent. Mike likes it also. He said, "How To Start A Riot" is deeply theological, playful, and imaginative."

In the prologue Jonathan states, "I wrote this book because there is something breathtaking about the first Jesus followers. They are risky and gentle, kind and convicted, imprisoned and compassionate, dying and yet fully alive. I wrote this book because I have always wanted to get in on that. And I suspect I'm not the only one." He's not. He's not the only one! I want to. And I believe that many others do also. You may be one of those. If you are. Get this book. This book presents the Book of Acts in a way that you have never seen it before.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers for a fair and honest review.)

THE CLOSER―MY STORY


THE CLOSERMy Story
By Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey

OVERVIEW: In The Closer. Rivera takes readers into the Yankee clubhouse, where his teammates are his brothers, and discusses the other "Core Four" teammates with whom he came up in the game—Jeter, Pettitte, and Posada. He examines the mental preparation that goes into being a world-class athlete, taking us on the jog from the bullpen to the mound―a place where the game, or the season, rests squarely on his shoulders. We come to understand the laserlike focus that is his hallmark, and how his faith and his family kept his feet firmly on the pitching rubber. Many of the tools he used so consistently and gracefully came from what was inside him for a very long time―his deep passion for life; his enduring commitment to his now wife, Clara, whom he met in kindergarten; and his incredible instincts for persevering. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHORS: Mariano Rivera was a New York Yankee for nineteen seasons. He is Major League Baseball's all-times saves and ERA leader, a thirteen-time All-Star, and a five-time World Champion. He and his wife, Clara, have three sons and live in New York. Wayne Coffey is one of the country's most acclaimed sports journalists. A writer for the New York Daily News, he co-wrote R.A. Dickey's bestselling Wherever I Wind Up and is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Boys of Winter, among other books. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and children.

MY REVIEW: The man who intimidated thousands of batters merely by opening a bullpen door is finally sharing his life and journey with his many fans. Today he is considered a global legend and often listed with Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Jeter as one of the top six Yankees of all time. And yet when he was first scouted by the Yankees, he didn't own a glove and arrived at his Yankees tryout with his big toe sticking out of his shoe. He had never flown in an airplane, had never heard of Babe Ruth, and spoke no English

The thing that impresses me the most about Rivera is his faith in the Lord to guide him.  The Wall Street Journal called him the greatest closer in baseball history. ESPN said, "...There has never been anyone like this. And it's likely there never will be." Sports Illustrated called him one of the most respected athletes in the country for almost two decades. I agree!

If you are a baseball fan you will not want to put this book down. Even if you are not a fan of the game you will be inspired by the story of this son of a poor Panamanian fisherman.

(I received this book from The Barnabas Agency in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

LIFE WORK

Friday, May 23, 2014


LIFE WORK
Confessions of an Everyday Disciple
By Randy Harris

OVERVIEW: This book offers down-to-earth wisdom from a lifetime follower of Jesus. Out of his own practice of the spiritual disciplines, his presentations before hundreds of churches and university audiences, and his deep love for his students, Randy draws us into the circle of love for God and for our neighbors. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Randy Harris is a popular speaker at conferences, churches, and college campuses across the United States and around the world. He is a professor of theology and ethics and has received numerous awards for his classroom work. He holds degrees from Harding School of Theology and Syracuse University. This book completes a trilogy, which began with God Work: Confessions of a Stand-up Theologian (2009) and Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-time Monk (2011).

MY REVIEW: If you get the opportunity to hear Randy Harris in person―do it! If not, then by all means read his books. This one, Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple is the third in his excellent trilogy. And it is a good one!

This is a book about ethics. Its about good and bad behavior. Harris shares from his experience as a teacher of ethics, from reading a lot of books, and from being in a different church almost every week. Most of us do not get too excited when we hear the word ethics. But Randy Harris writes like he speaks―in an entertaining way. Entertaining but deeply spiritual. Sometimes when reading one of his books I feel like I do when the nurse is so good at injecting the needle that I am surprised that I have been jabbed with a needle. Thinking about it I realize there was a little pain but I didn't really mind. This is a book that will prick you occasionally but most of all it will bless you.

( I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

A GODWARD HEART

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


A GODWARD HEART
Treasuring the God Who Loves You
By John Piper

OVERVIEW: John Piper invites you to experience deeper intimacy with God through these thought-provoking and soul-enriching meditations. Whether you are just discovering the divine richness of Scripture or have long been a passionate student, you'll find a deeper understanding of God and renewed insight for your journey. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For thirty-three years he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic Desiring God.

MY REVIEW: I have been a long time admirer of John Piper's writing, of his devotion to Bethlehem Baptist Church where he devoted thirty-three years of his life and his strong proclamation of the supreme-ness of Christ in all things. I do not have the same appreciation for his deep and sincere devotion to Calvinism, which he has proudly proclaimed on numerous occasions. But that aside, John is a excellent writer and this collection of short devotions is spiritually uplifting.

There are fifty short devotions in this book and each one can be read in just a few minutes. His paragraphs are filled with Scripture. His thoughts on these Scriptures are thought provoking and challenging. Many days after reading some of them I find myself still considering them and rethinking what they mean. I recommend this book to students of the Word and all who are serious about daily devotion.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.)

"THEY ALWAYS TEAR DOWN THE GOOD STUFF"

Monday, May 19, 2014



In the movie, "Inventing The Abbotts" there is a reference to an old barn being torn down.

Joaquin Phoenix said, "They always tear down the good stuff."

They do. They always tear down the good stuff.

When I was a kid every Saturday afternoon found us down town people watching.

I loved that old town.

They tore it down.

At my last congregation we had a beautiful baptistery, communion table, with a preacher's stand up in the pulpit area that matched it and a beautiful wooden cross that also matched.

They tore down the baptistery, took out the communion table and speaker's stand and hid the cross.

So many things are being torn down.

On a regular basis as I move around from place to place  I find myself saying, "I can't believe they tore that down!"

Today's theme seems to be: "Change Is Good."

Many times it is. But not always!

NOT ALWAYS!

I'm old and well used. But I'm not ready to be cast aside or torn down yet.

Old barns, church buildings, towns----everything old and well worn needs to be given careful consideration before it is torn down.

Many times change is good. But not always!

WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING

Saturday, May 10, 2014


WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING
A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation,
Reorientation, and Activation
By Brian D. McLaren

OVERVIEW: From critically acclaimed author Brian McLaren comes a brilliant retelling of the biblical story and a thrilling reintroduction to Christian faith. This book puts tools in the readers hands to create a life altering learning community in any home, restaurant, or welcoming space. The fifty-two (plus a few) weekly readings can be read a loud in 10-12 minutes. They offer a simple curriculum of insightful reflections and transformative practices which will guide an individual or group of friends through a year of rich study and growth. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Brian D. McLaren is an author, a speaker, an activist, and a public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian was a church planter and pastor in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area for over twenty years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the United States and internationally, and is theologian-in-residence at Life in the Trinity Ministry.

MY REVIEW: I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review. And that's what this is. It's fair and it's honest and it's hard for me to write. It's hard because I like Brian McLaren and I don't like to disagree with him―but I do! Brian is a brilliant author, speaker and theologian. But I just honestly do not agree with some of his theology and philosophy. So there is great parts of this book that I don't like because I simply do not agree with what he is saying. Therefore, I can't recommend it.

The idea for the book is excellent and it is laid out in a beautiful way―a year long quest. Brian is an excellent writer. Much of what he writes is like reading poetry. Poetry that is interesting and fun to read. The problem with me is, I just don't agree with some of his conclusions and what they encourage. So my recommendation for my conservative friends is―don't waste your money on this book, you won't like it. But if I have any liberal friends that are reading this blog, I have to say―you will love this book. If fact, you may think it is the best book you have read in a long time and that it was written just for you.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group exchange for a fair and honest review.)

RIDING "SHOT GUN" WITH A BOOTLEGGER



We would head South out of town toward the Red River and cross over into Texas. Once inside Texas we drove straight to the Liquor store. Loaded up two or three cases of whiskey and headed back across the Red River into Oklahoma.

My sister-in-law's father was a bootlegger. Once he got home with the liquor he would take the bottles out of the case and distribute them in hiding places around the house until a buyer came by to pick up a pint or two.

I liked Henry. I liked him a lot. He was a quiet man with an easy going disposition. He took me on his liquor buying trips to have somebody to talk to and maybe I made him less of a suspect to the Highway Patrol sitting on the side of the rode just inside the border looking for bootleggers.

I lived with my brother and his family when I was young. My sister-in-law and her father were close so I spent a lot of time at Henry's. I watched men and women, usually men coming in and out. The police watched this also but he paid them off so they never bothered him. One day I was at his house when the police came unannounced. They walked around in the house for a few minutes, raised the table cloth up from the kitchen table, looked under it, put it down and said, "there's nothing here" and left.

Henry had once worked full-time at Fort Sill, a nearby army base. I don't know what kind of work he did but he had lost some of the fingers on one of his hands. All the time I knew him he made his living from bootlegging and playing Moon. Almost every day he could be found in the back of a pool hall playing Moon. He was very good at it and always had a roll of money.

One of the high lights of my youth was a trip I made with Henry, his girl friend, my brother, his wife and their young daughter. We all piled into Henry's Ford and drove from Oklahoma to California and back. It was a great trip for a young boy who had never been anyplace outside of Oklahoma except to the liquor store in Texas and that was just fifty miles away.

Even as a young boy I never thought liquor was a good thing. I didn't drink it then---or ever. I didn't think it was a good thing to break the law and I knew that bootlegging was against the law. And I didn't think I was breaking the law by being friends with somebody who did. Henry was such a nice man that he didn't seem like a criminal to me. I was glad when the law changed and Henry got on the right side of it. He eventually opened his own liquor store.

I never did learn to like the idea of people drinking whiskey. Because so many times they end up getting drunk. And that's bad.

Henry's gone now. The house where he lived and bootlegged from is gone. My brother and Henry's daughter are gone too. I have a lot of memories from those Oklahoma days so many years ago.
For two years while a student at Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas I crossed over the Red River back into Oklahoma to preach for a little country church. I drove over the same road that Henry and I had traveled together several years before.

Monday, May 05, 2014

SOUL KEEPING


SOUL KEEPING
Caring for The Most Important
Part of You
By John Ortberg

OVERVIEW: Bestselling author John Ortberg presents a spiritually satisfying classic that will help you rediscover your soul―the most important connection to God there is―and find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity's most mysterious and neglected topics. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Ortberg is Senior Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the bestselling author of Who Is This Man?; It All Goes Back in the Box; The Life You've Always Wanted; and If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.

MY REVIEW: John Ortberg is one of my favorite writers. He knows and writes about the needs of people. In this book he addresses anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness. Many times, not always, these are symptoms of a soul that has lost touch with its source of life. Ortberg points out that like a flower snipped from the vine, the soul that is not turned toward God can only wither away.

This is a book about the most overlooked, underrated, and least-understood part of your being. "The health of your soul isn't just a matter of saved or unsaved. It's the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs."This is an important book! Ortberg points out that we've neglected the eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world―and not without consequence.

I love the way he uses stories to make a point and illustrate the truth. The three sections of this book are: What The Soul Is, What The Soul Needs and The Soul Restored.

A favorite part of this book for me, is his many references to, stories about and quotes from Dallas Willard. If you are an admirer of Dallas Willard, as I am, you will appreciate this part of the book also.

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)